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Spotlight: Star Wars Rebels – Captain Hera Syndulla

Greetings from a galaxy far, far away! It has been a long time since this blogger posted anything on Star Wars Rebels. While part of that was due to the inherent busyness of the previous year another, greater part of it was the fact that the series ended on such a disappointing note. As mentioned previously, I was not pleased by the series’ finale and I still have not watched it. For this blogger, Rebels ended with season three.

Why has the Mithril Guardian suddenly returned to Rebels? Well, to be perfectly honest, she never actually left. She enjoys re-watching episodes from the first three seasons occasionally and often discusses the characters with friends. One of those chats led to the subject of this post: Captain Hera Syndulla, the mother-figure for the crew of the Ghost who later became a general in the Rebel Alliance.

To be perfectly honest, Hera never really won me over, and that always struck this author as odd. The reason this seemed strange to me is that there are many things to like about Captain Syndulla. For starters, she is a very good “space mom” to her crew. Her piloting skills are on par with those of Han Solo, Wedge Antilles, Luke Skywalker, Tycho Celchu, Corran Horn, and dozens of other original characters. She believes wholeheartedly in the Rebellion and the Force. She is capable, pleasant, and an all around good person…which should make me like her.

So why don’t I like Hera?

This has bothered me for some time, not as an issue to be remedied so much as a subject to be understood. And, after much thought, I believe I have found that understanding. This blogger has come to the conclusion that her biggest problem with Hera has nothing to do with the character herself. It does, however, have everything to do with what the writers did to her.

This is not meant to be an insult to Dave Filoni or his crew. They did a fine job with the show. But they were operating under some obvious handicaps, and a great many of the choices they made for the series demonstrate this, especially the ones involving Hera. Having watched a few Clone Wars episodes with a friend, the strictures holding Filoni down became a bit clearer. He and the other showrunners must have been told by the Disney bigwigs to make the women in Rebels outshine the men in every possible way and as often as they could manage it, something Filoni did not have to do in Clone Wars.

Sabine Wren | Star Wars Fanpedia | FANDOM powered by Wikia

This is why Sabine tended to show Ezra up even after his training and experience should have given him enough strength and strategic planning to match her. While some of this can be put down to her longer Mandalorian training, there are situations which occur during Rebels that do not account for or excuse the moments where the writers blatantly pander to the “I am woman, hear me roar!” crowd. Clone Wars kept a much more balanced view of the heroes and heroines’ separate biological, mental, and physical advantages in combat. Rebels was not allowed to do this with Sabine or, more importantly, with Hera Syndulla.

Allow me to explain. When we are introduced to Hera she is the unquestioned captain of the ship, heart of the crew, and mother figure to the younger members in the group (including Zeb, who is young at heart if not in actual fact). She is also the only one to have knowledge of and contact with the Rebel Alliance, a constraint which is meant to protect both her “space family” and the Alliance. Additionally, she is the only member of the crew totally committed to the Rebellion and the Force. Also, she alone has scars that do not begin bleeding at the slightest touch.

Portraying Hera this way makes a lot of sense. In a group of broken, battered, disillusioned people, you would want at least one member of the gang to have a level head and emotional maturity. This person would also have to have enough love in their heart to make everyone feel welcome and thus determined to stay, no matter what old wounds are opened or who steps on their toes. Hera fits the bill nicely and accomplishes her task very well – when she is allowed to do it.

This is where the problems begin. Hera Syndulla is rarely given permission to be herself in the latter seasons of Rebels. Rather than let her be the warm, gooey glue who holds the crew together and leads them down the path to healing, she is forced to “be more than the ‘space mom’ of the Ghost.” In addition to this potent place she holds in the story and the crew, she is forced to become a political firebrand and a general.

Hera Syndulla | StarWars.com

No one behind Filoni and his staff, it appears, ever thought to ask why she needed to be either of these things in addition to being a mom. Was it because the corporate suits thought she had to “be more powerful”? To “be stronger”? To show that “women are just as good as a man” in war? Begging your pardon, Disney/Lucasfilm, but I would like to see a man successfully hold the crew together the way that Hera Syndulla did when Filoni wasn’t forced to make her dance to your PC tune.

Before anyone makes the obvious point that men can hold together a “family” of this sort, too, permit me to say a few words on that. Generally, when men are put in a unifying position for a pseudo family, they do this job far differently than women such as Hera do it. Captain America is the grounding and uniting force for the Avengers, true, but his role is that of a “battle father.” And as a father, he has to be in the field, leading the charge, because that is what men do. They lead. They fight. They build. They sweat and toil, enduring deprivation and pain so that the rest of the family can stay home to make home a place worth fighting, living, and dying for.

Mothers do not do that. They cannot do it because they do not have time for it. They are too busy making sure the kids get to school on time, taking care of the house (or ship, in this case), not to mention keeping an eye on the money and food. These are all things that men can do, too, but they typically do not have time to do it because they are fighting off outside threats. Whether these threats are natural – i.e. storms and animals – or whether they come from other people like the Empire does not matter. What matters is that this is what they do while the moms stay home to keep the hearth fires glowing.

Notice I said moms do not fight. Women can and have led armies. They can and have entered combat. And when their family is threatened, moms will step up to the plate to defend those they love from harm. In each case, however, they have done so in small numbers or due to necessity rather than choice. This is because most women are much happier (and more comfortable) running a household than they are fighting on the battlefield or shooting bad guys from the cover of their living rooms.

Hera Syndulla | StarWars.com

While some missions would have called for Hera to leave the Ghost, the majority would have let her stay home and run the household, a.k.a. the ship. That was her primary domain, the place where she could do the most good – in no small part because it was her ship and she was the best pilot in the group. No one else could fly the Ghost or run the vessel the way she could because there she was the boss and her word was literally law.

She did not need to “be more” than the “mom” for the crew. Hera had more power in her pinky finger as mom and captain of the Ghost than Princess Leia or Mon Mothma had as leaders of the Alliance. She was also far tougher and more powerful than Sabine. Specter Five may have been able to go toe-to-toe with adult, fully trained Stormtroopers and Mandalorians, but Hera ran the ship twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Which job is harder – beating up bad guys, or getting everyone around the dinner table on time? (Hint: the answer is not smacking Stormtroopers.)

Hera’s place, to me, was always on the Ghost. I liked her best when she was at her most motherly and/or piloting the ship. That was when she was at her finest. That was when she was strongest. When she was allowed to be a woman and a mother, Hera absolutely fascinated this blogger. I would have followed that version of Hera from Lothal to Endor and straight into the old EU’s Yuuzhan Vong War arc (which, in case you who have only just discovered this site, is an arc I absolutely despise).

Unfortunately, Filoni and the other writers could not let her stay there. They had to put her in A-Wing, Y-Wing, and X-Wing fighters. They had to send her to make inspiring political speeches. They had to have her, a relative nobody in the Rebellion’s upper echelons (who remembers the Senator’s daughter?), tell off a bunch of politicians so she could lead an attack on the Lothalian TIE Defender factories. (With a handful of freaking fighters, NOT a detachment of cruisers and blockade runners that could at least hold their own with an armada of big bad Star Destroyers!!! Aargh…!)

The Disney bigwigs did not want to give Mon Mothma or Leia the floor. They did not even want to give a new female character made specifically for the moment the job of facing “the patriarchy.” No, they had to yank the “space mom” away from home and family to do a job meant for a stateswoman or – gasp – a man like Senator Bail Organa.

Bail Organa in 'Rogue One' - MediaMedusa.com

Senator Bail Organa

Seriously, exchange Hera for Bail in that rousing speech scene in episode eight of season four. I guarantee you the scenario works better with him telling the wishy-washy Senators to get off their butts and strike while the iron is hot than to have Hera do it. When this blogger heard Hera give her “stirring lecture,” she had to roll her eyes to avoid yelling at the screen. Hera’s speech sounded empty and flat, which it should not have. It was (a) not a bad speech and (b), she is a good enough character that she should have been able to make it work. She just could not make it work outside of the Ghost because, dang it, the ship is her province and main sphere of influence.

That ship and her crew are the ones who need to hear her speeches, not a bunch of sniveling political blowhards who haven’t got enough courage among them to fill a teaspoon. This is another problem with that scene:  we know that Bail Organa has a great deal of fortitude – he helped to found the Rebel Alliance, despite being from a pacifist world that has no weapons whatsoever. Why is he suddenly reluctant not to take a stab at the Empire? The Bail Organa of the original EU would have ordered the strike without a second thought. Why does this version suddenly start tiptoeing around the idea like a ballet dancer?

And whose bright idea was it to send the near-pacifistic Mon Mothma to tell Hera to go give the political leaders a tongue-lashing in her stead? For Pete’s sake, in previous season four episodes, Mon Mothma was all for running and hiding!!! Now she’s going to send another woman and to start a fight on her behalf?! In the name of Heaven, why?!?! (*author slaps head on desk repeatedly*)

Hera Syndulla - Star Wars Wiki Guide - IGN

It was choices like these which kept my admiration for Hera Syndulla at a moderate level. She was designed to be a mom and a pilot, but Filoni could not leave her there because Disney had to maintain the attack on the “evil patriarchy” no matter what. This meant that he had to attack the “patriarchy” or lose his job at Lucasfilm, along with his chance to maintain some sanity in a galaxy far, far away. Thus he had to essentially ruin a fine character who, while she was good, could have been truly great if he had been free to leave her on the ship.

Does this mean Rebels is not worth watching, or that Hera is a terrible character? The answer to both questions is no. Rebels’ first three seasons are good, and Hera is a fine character. But she and the series would have been much, much better if Filoni’s bosses hadn’t been such short-sighted twits. If they had left him alone, then Rebels would have been more fun than it already is.

In order to end this post on a positive note, I can say that the series is worth a go. I am really sorry they could not do more than they did, but what they pulled off during the show’s first three seasons was good. It is not bad entertainment and I recommend watching it when you get the chance. Just bear in mind what Disney/Lucasfilm did and recognize that it could have been better if they had left the writers alone.

          Until next time, readers –

“The Force will be with you, always.”

Why Captain Hera Syndulla Deserves Her Very Own Marvel Comic | The Mary Sue

Spotlight: Thundercats – Lion-O

New THUNDERCATS Animated Series Coming to Cartoon Network ...

So far in this series of Spotlight! posts we have covered Panthro, Cheetara, Tygra, and the Thunderkittens. Discounting the one we will discuss today, that leaves one final character on the list. But who is the focus of this post?

That would be none other than Lion-O, Lord of the Thundercats. Based on the African lion, Lion-O is the hereditary Lord of the Thundercats. The position is equivalent to the title of king and is not indicative of a noble designation; “lord” sounds better when combined with “Thundercats” than king. Just try to say, “Lion-O, King of the Thundercats.” Go ahead, I’ll wait.

…Tried it? It’s a bit of tongue twister, isn’t it?

When we first see him Lion-O appears as a twelve-year-old cub. As the rest of the team guides their ship away from Thundera, the young prince is quite literally taking a nap. Scenes from later episodes would make one wonder about this, but for the introductory installment the picture fits. The prince is a child and the adults want to spare him the destruction of his homeworld for as long as humanly possible. (Yes, I know they are humanoid cats. It’s called artistic license. Get over it!) Eventually, though, they have to wake him. If he is going to be the ruler of his people, he has to “learn to take the good with the bad.”

Not long after watching Thundera go the way of Krypton, the Thundercats’ ship is attacked and boarded by Mutants. Left in the throne room with the Sword of Omens, Lion-O is most displeased to be denied a piece of the action. However, when the Mutant leaders Slythe and Jackalman arrive to steal the Sword, Lion-O finds that battle does not necessarily hold the kind of excitement that he believed it would. Threatened by the Mutants, he tries to lift the Sword, but it is too heavy. So the Sword itself activates and, with a flare of magical power, sends Slythe and Jackalman running.

Thundercats Sword of Omens 2.0 - YouTube

With the boarders repelled the adults take stock of the damage. Their engines have been hit hard, meaning they cannot reach their chosen new home, so their best option is the as-yet unnamed Third Earth. Since the journey will take so long the only way for the Cats to survive is to enter the suspension capsules, where they will be kept in suspended animation until they land.

If you read the first post on the original Thundercats series, then this should all be fairly familiar. The only reason I go over it again here is because it is a pretty good set-up for Lion-O’s character: he is proud, speaks before he thinks, and tends to get more than he bargained for when he makes any kind of childish wish. But we also see here that he does have redeeming qualities, such as nobility of spirit, courage, determination, and compassion. He is not a one-trick pony but a multi-dimensional protagonist who wants to be a good man.

So even though his behavior when he wakes to find himself an adult is annoying, it is not enough to make viewers like yours truly detest him. We have all been where he is at this point in his life and can relate to his attitude. Also, though we do not necessarily want him to get smacked upside the head with reality, we know it is coming. Because Lion-O remains agreeable despite his flaws, we can hope the blow is softened by the wisdom of his much older friends as well.

Lion-O’s character is more or less centered on nobility and courage, both virtues symbolized by his namesake cat. While he is second to Panthro in terms of physical strength, Lion-O is no slouch when it comes to corporal prowess. Those Conan-like muscles aren’t for show. When he gets going, the young Lord can go toe-to-toe with some of the most powerful villains on and off Third Earth strength for strength.

Lion-O - ThunderCats wiki

However, a good physique is not enough to fight Mumm-Ra. When he duels with the ever-living mummy Lion-O primarily relies on the hereditary weapon of his house, the Sword of Omens, to see him through the battle. More than a simple Sword, the mystical Eye of Thundera in the hilt of the Sword of Omens grants any pure and/or good-hearted wielder the basic ability of “Sight Beyond Sight.” This is the capacity to view people or events occuring simultaneously elsewhere and even in the past.

Whenever a Thundercat – up to and including Lion-O – is at risk or in danger, the Eye growls in warning. Lion-O could then snatch it from the scabbard/Claw Shield and say, “Sword of Omens, give me sight beyond sight,” enabling to see who was in trouble or what trap was in store for him. Given the context of this statement when spoken, his words always had the ring of a petition rather than a command. The Eye and the Sword were sacred relics to the Thunderian race, and given the power they had, his specific tone and phraseology when addressing the Sword makes a great deal of sense.

It also emphasized the fact that the Sword a personality of its own. Though willing enough to let Lion-O throw bolts of energy at an opponent or to use its magic in some other creative fashion, if he charged into a fight too quickly or let his pride get the better of him, the Sword would stay stubbornly silent, still, and small. This prevented Lion-O from becoming an intolerable protagonist as well. With the Sword and his friends checking his ego at every turn, it made learning lessons in humility and virtue easier for him to swallow, helping him grow up less harshly than he would have otherwise.

Along with the Sword, Lion-O regularly carried and wielded the Claw Shield. A scabbard that doubled as a gauntlet, it was molded to resemble a lion’s paw. The Shield was practically indestructible, just like the Sword. The index finger of the shield could send out a claw-tipped grappling line, allowing its wielder to swing down from a great height or swing up to one. The wearer could also use the lines to rappel up and/or down any vertical surface. The gems on its knuckles covered similar grappling lines, though they were used less frequently by Lion-O than the single claw line.

In addition, the gems on the back of the Claw Shield hid vents which would blow out clouds of a green smoke/gas which would temporarily blind and befuddle an opponent. The claws in the gauntlet’s “fingers” also allowed for a better grip when climbing, and a chain attached to the inside of the Shield gave the user the ability to wield the gauntlet like a lasso. It goes without saying that, when Lion-O punched someone while wearing the Shield, his strike hurt more than it would have if he had used his bare fist. If he hit someone with his Claw Shielded fist then the unlucky enemy would be feeling it for days.

It is unknown how the gauntlet attached to Lion-O’s leg. He wore no pants (as the pictures above clearly show), and there was no visible hook on the Shield. It adhered to his leg by some chemical or magical means, allowing the Lord of the Thundercats to grab and don it whenever the need arose.

Combined with the watchful instruction of his friends and the spiritual advice of the deceased royal adviser/magician, the influence of the Sword of Omens and Eye of Thundera helped to mold Lion-O into an heroic king. While not above a joke or friendly teasing, by the time he had to undergo the Anointment Trials to ascend the throne, the young Lord was almost a different person from the boy-child seen in the first episodes. Tempered by defeat and matured by time, he is an adult to be reckoned with, something his success in the Trials confirmed.

Reboot Review – ThunderCats 2011: Omens, Part 1 & 2 ...

Of course, now one has to stack this portrayal up against that seen in the 2011 Thundercats reboot. To be perfectly honest, the writers for the reboot did a pretty good job of capturing Lion-O’s journey to manhood. They did not do it as well as the ‘80s writers, but that is to be expected due to the changes they made in order to win over a new audience.

In the 2011 series, Lion-O is in his mid-to-late teens. Somwhere around seventeen or eighteen based on his appearance, I would guess, but he may actually have been around sixteen years old. The heir to the throne of Thundera, which is a kingdom on Third Earth rather than a planet, Lion-O has lived most of his life in his adopted older brother Tygra’s shadow. He is therefore less mature and more likely to rush headfirst into a fight.

Only this time, he doesn’t want to charge into battle just to avenge wounded pride. That aspect comes later. Lion-O runs straight into trouble in the 2011 series because he is dedicated to doing the right thing, even if the odds are against him – a fact which usually registers after he has promised to fix everything, only to find the situation is more difficult or complex than it appeared at first glance.

For the most part, Lion-O’s pride is not a source of trouble in the reboot. His inexperience, his temper, his relative naïveté, and his good heart lead to most of the difficulties he and his friends face as the show progresses. Thus his journey is less about overcoming pride and realizing his responsibilities than it is about him transitioning through trial and error from boy to man.

Lion-O, Cheetara, and the Cats travel Into the Astral ...

Looking back, I think that this is one of the reasons why I did not mind Lion-O’s new appearance or arc in the reboot. His romantic interest in Cheetara and some other quibbles aside, the writers did a very good job of presenting the Lord of the Thundercats and his character arc to a new generation of viewers. While it would have been nice if they had maintained some of the nuance from the 1980s’, there is no denying that they pulled out all the stops to make sure they did not violate the pattern set for Lion-O by the first series.

Add to this Will Friedle’s enthusiastic voice acting (he happens to be a huge fan of the original Thundercats series), and there is literally nothing bad for this blogger say about his portrayal. He was a great choice for Lion-O, and I hope he gets another shot at playing the young prince someday in the future. This is one character/actor pairing that deserves to be revisited!

Well, that wraps up this year’s set of Spotlight! posts, readers. I have time for two more before I take my Christmas season leave, but I have many plans for 2020’s posting schedule. Many plans indeed…. ;D

Until next time: “Thunder…. Thunder….

Thundercats, HO!!!”

Character Issues: Lion-O (1985) - longboxingwhileblack

Spotlight: Zoids – The Pteras Striker

Image result for zoids pteras striker

Once more we return to the desert sands of Zi, readers! In all the hustle and bustle this year, I almost forgot to fulfill a promise I made in 2018. That pledge was to discuss the merits of the Pteras Striker, a Republican airborne zoid that was mentioned in the post about Moonbay. Luckily, this blogger realized in time that she had neglected this duty, a turn of events she intends to change right…. Now!

The Pteras Striker – Pteras is pronounced like “terrace,” just so you know – is one of the most familiar air zoids in the Republican air corps. A blocky Pterasaur-ish type bio-machine, its color scheme is usually blue and grey. The only other colors seem to be blue and yellow or grey and silver. There do not appear to be many variations in the paints used for this mechanical combat unit’s armor.

It is worth noting that the silver Pterases (pronounced like “terraces”) are faster than the average model. Why this is, yours truly cannot say. It may be that silver Pterases are equipped with booster packs or have lighter armor, allowing them to go faster. No explanation is offered within the series, so either guess may be accurate. This is mere conjecture on this author’s part, as she attempts to fill in the blanks left by the English translation of the show.

Image result for zoids pteras striker

At first glance, it looks as though there is no way for Pteras Strikers to fly. Their wings are full of holes, after all. Doesn’t that negate the ability to soar? When this blogger asked that same question as a child, her father provided the explanation. Pterases fly by virtue of the electric current that flows through their wings. Although I no longer remember for certain, my father may have mentioned a type of real-life plane that operates on the same principle.

So if anyone knows about an aircraft that can do this, please mention it in the comments! This blogger would dearly love to know for certain if her memory has held up over the years. (Plus, if there is an existing plane that flies via this method, it just has to be cool! :D)

In terms of combat capabilities, the Pteras is…not this writer’s favorite zoid. The Pteras has light armor and is far slower than most of its competition, though it can be quick in close quarters or with the right pilot. While only the Raynos – a zoid from the sequel series Zoids: New Century Zero – could outclass the Storm Sworder directly in terms of speed, the Pteras seems unequal to the task of facing even an ordinary Redler in combat. The fact that we never saw these two air zoids clash during the series did not help the Pteras’ image.

Neither did the mechanical combat unit’s myriad crashes. The Pteras Strikers in both Zoids: Chaotic Century and New Century Zero were basically cannon fodder for heroes and enemies alike. There are many, many scenes in both series of one or more Pterases being shot down and tumbling out of the sky. Jamie Hermos, the pilot of a Pteras in New Century Zero, was the only character who ever seemed distressed by the loss of his zoid. Other pilots who, admittedly, used Pterases far less frequently and were less attached to them, often shrugged their loss off.

Image result for zoids pteras striker

Besides their relatively thin armor, Pterases usually have two types of weaponry: light armaments and heavy artillery. One could argue silver Pterases maintained a nice middle-ground in the weaponry department, but the fact is that their weapons tended to be relatively light as well. Still, silver Pterases did have the better end of the armament stick, in this author’s opinion.

A basic Pteras model comes equipped with two missiles on its back and a mini-machine gun on the right side of its mouth. And when I say mini, I mean mini. The gun barrel is probably only a little wider than a man’s hand with all fingers spread.

The bullets fired from this gun are enough to seriously bother ground-based zoids and bring them up short, but they do not seem capable of causing major damage to their four-legged targets. New Century and Chaotic Century show the mini machine gun’s bullets as mere pinpricks that make a ground zoid’s armor bounce uncomfortably. So while annoying and potentially deadly (at least to the pilot), only prolonged exposure to the bullets would inflict definite harm on an opposing bio-machine.

Image result for zoids pteras striker

With regard to the missiles, while they could deliver a substantially higher payload, there were only two of them. That would significantly reduce the Pteras pilot’s ability to fight off numerous opponents if he has to escape a battle, or if he is facing a better-armored zoid. It was not an especially encouraging armament for a mechanical combat unit sent into an active (or even an inactive) war zone. Given the Republic’s lack of wealth to procure materials, however, it made quite a bit of sense in context of the series.

Of course, “sense” does not mean “helpful.” In order to make the Pteras useful on the battlefield, Republican technicians and scientists added higher powered cannons to the wings of the Pteras Striker. These weapons packed more punch than the missiles on the zoid’s back and enabled it to carry more ammunition. Smaller arms that were still bigger than the Pteras’ “mouth cannon” were set alongside these larger guns, giving the zoid enough firepower to act as legitimate air support.

Naturally, though, this added weaponry put quite a bit of extra drag on the Pteras Striker. While nimble enough, the zoid was already inferior to most of its competition in the speed department. So throwing more guns on it only made it slower, meaning it became a more appealing and an easier target for Imperial forces. Again, not something that is particularly helpful in a war.

Image result for zoids pteras striker

Silver Pterases, in contrast, came equipped with large machine guns on their wings. These were light enough not to interfere with the zoid’s mobility at the same time they provided it with significant firepower. Combined with their greater speed, these items made silver Pterases preferable to the basic models and their more heavily armed counterparts. Due to the lack of Republican resources, though, these zoids were not seen much during the war in the first season of Chaotic Century. For some reason, they never even had an appearance in New Century Zero. At least, this blogger does not recall seeing the silver Pteras in action during that show’s run.

Given these limitations, it makes sense that the Pteras would more regularly be used as a recon zoid. Replacing the missiles on their backs with a radar dish for greater range, the Pteras could provide the military with detailed reconnaissance. Even though this made the zoid even more vulnerable to attack, it was a pretty good idea – especially for the cash-strapped Republic.

Clearly, this blogger does not prefer the Pteras Striker as a combat zoid. It is a pretty mechanical combat unit, in its own way, but it would certainly be one of the last bio-machines I would choose to pilot in a fight. The only times this writer would take it out would be for a Sunday flight or if she was desperate. Or if the zoid was slated for dismemberment and cruel experimentation, but we will discuss that subject another time.

I hope you enjoyed this look at the Pteras Striker, readers. This will be my final Zoids post of 2019; there will be more next year, but since we are coming up on the Christmas season no more such posts shall be forthcoming this month. I have a couple of different articles planned, but you will have to wait and see what those will contain. 😉 Until next time –

See you on the battlefield, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

Image result for zoids pteras striker

Spotlight: Thundercats – Wilykit and Wilykat

Thundercats [Animales fuera de serie] – PixFans

Left to right: Wilykat and his older sister, Wilykit

Earlier this year an article about Tygra, a member of the Thundercats from the series of the same name, appeared here at Thoughts. When asked if more posts on the characters would be forthcoming, this blogger promised to write at least a two before the year was out. She is now endeavoring to follow through on that assurance with this Spotlight! post.

Having covered three of the adult members of the original cast from Thundercats, we now turn to their junior members, the Thunderkittens. Apparently, among the Thunderian race, children are known as cubs and teenagers are called kittens. Wilykit and her younger twin brother, Wilykat, are both in their early teens (they appear to be thirteen or fourteen years old). As such they are usually referred to as the Kittens, though the adults will sometimes call them kids.

The Thunderkittens are thought to be based on wildcats. They have no obvious markings which identify their species of cat, so this is primarily conjecture on the part of the audience. Since it is such a likely classification it has stuck throughout the years.

Born into nobility, Wilykit and Wilykat are technically older than Lion-O, who was around twelve when they left Thundera. When they left their dying homeworld the two were expected to treat him as a younger brother – albeit one who would someday be their king. Upon finding the younger cub had grown to adulthood in his sleeping capsule the Kittens were quick to jump on him for his pride in his newfound strength.

ThunderCats 2x23 Runaways - ShareTV

Although their statements were accurate, they also showed that the Kittens were rather jealous of him. They no longer had someone they could boss around and with whom they could just be kids. Lion-O was physically mature and therefore had to assume his responsibilities faster than anyone had anticipated. Although he never lorded his power over them and became an older brother figure to the two, all three felt the sudden gap between them keenly during their first days on Third Earth.

As their names imply, Kit and Kat were masters of the art of trickery. Each sibling carried a pouch full of colored, cats-eye style magic pellets that would do a variety of things when they struck the ground. The capsules could be the equivalent of flash-bang grenades or they could be bubble gum. Even the Kittens didn’t always know what was in a given tablet before they used it. Although the items inside were hardly ever improper for the situation at hand, on a few occasions they did prove to be a bust.

In addition Kit and Kat carried “trick lassos” that they could use to tie up an opponent or to enter/exit a battle. Since they were teens neither Kitten could match their opponents physically, despite their own naturally increased strength. The lassos were generally a method for swinging into or out of a battle. They were also a temporary measure that enabled them to hold an enemy in place for a brief period of time. During those few precious seconds the twins could pull off a ruse or keep someone pinned in place long enough for one of the adult Cats to arrive.

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Unless they had the opportunity to operate one of the weapons built into Cat’s Lair, the Thundertank, or another vehicle the twins’ fighting style was based entirely on speed, agility, acrobatics, and/or a mischievous ploy. Exceptional climbers even by Thundercat standards, the twins often raced through the trees both to fight and flee as well as to have fun.

Only one twin had a special move similar to the adults’ innate powers. Wilykit had the ability to curl up into a ball and zing around a battlefield, allowing her to knock over, hit, or stun much larger opponents. Her power was useful but could also be detrimental; while fighting animated stone gargoyles, hitting them at speed in her ball form “nearly threw [her] back out.” If she had struck the monsters at a higher velocity, she would have seriously injured herself.

Wilykit did not use this ability too often, preferring to rely on her native wit and skills to fight. She and her brother tended to combine both these traits with their piloting ability. Each Kitten had a special, surfer-style hoverboard specifically designed for them by Panthro. Regularly flying around the environs of Cat’s Lair, the Kittens could provide impromptu air support and reconnaissance. They could also act as advance scouts or even bait.

Conversely, they could also become the catalyst for a conflict by being captured while gallivanting about on the hoverboards. Kids will be kids, after all, and it wouldn’t be healthy for the Cats to keep the twins indoors or within sight of Cat’s Lair all the time. Besides, with no other resources to rely on as they became denizens and then protectors of their new homeworld, the Kittens often had adult responsibilities thrust upon them. They rarely abused the trust the mature members of the party placed in them, willingly accepting the discipline imposed on them when they realized how badly they had erred.

My earlier article on the two Thundercats TV series gives details about how the writers for the comics treated the Kittens. Not only was it illogical, it was downright evil. The 2011 reboot did not touch on that, thankfully, but it was not entirely generous in its depiction of the Kittens, either.

Image - Wileykat and Wileykit.JPG | ThunderCats wiki ...

For one thing, the reboot made the twins much younger than they had been in the original series. They were also given tails and turned into street urchins rather than young nobles. Wilykit’s ball form was replaced with a flute she could use to hypnotize a target, and the Kittens’ ears doubled as their hair. Wilykit became a spiritual adviser to Lion-O in the 2011 series as well. While that was not a bad alteration per se, the role would have had more weight if she were a noble trained to such a position or if she was assuming her hereditary duty. Since she was a former street urchin and a cub rather than a Kitten, it seemed a bit out of place.

The reboot also expanded on the Kittens’ origins, showing them with their parents and twin younger siblings. While this was a fine addition to the original story (we never did find out what became of Kit and Kat’s parents in the ‘80s), what followed was not. After their father was killed in a tornado, the Kittens’ mother apparently began selling herself to make ends meet so she could feed her four children.

Image - Wilies temple jamboree.jpg | ThunderCats wiki ...

Although realistic, this turn of events is both uncharacteristic of the original Thundercats material at the same time it was mishandled terribly. Nothing within the series overtly hints at the position of the Kittens’ mother following the loss of their father, thankfully, but the fact that this was put in a children’s show is more than a bit disturbing. There were other jobs they could have given to the Kittens’ mother which would have been better for viewers young and old to empathize with.

Likewise, the fact that they have the twins run away from home in the middle of the night to find a mythical city of gold strikes a false note. Didn’t their mother worry about them? Didn’t she try to find them? Why are they stealing for themselves just to keep body and soul together until they find El Dara, the city of gold? There were jobs they could have found, even at that young age, which would have helped take care of their mother and siblings rather than leave home in such a way as to add to their troubles.

All of this serves to make the previous point that the reboot, while it has entertaining and good aspects, is far inferior to its predecessor. While it has its enjoyable moments, the places where it falls down on the job make it difficult to completely enjoy. The ‘80s show was not perfect, but it did not need to be. It just had to be good.

Well, readers, that covers all the major characters in the series except one. Oops, actually, there are two left. Lion-O will be next on the list, but after his post will come an article on the hero who received the most hate in the ‘80s. He never bothered me the way that he did others, though, so the post about him will be very interesting indeed.

Until next time, readers: “Thunder…. Thunder….

Thundercats, HO!!!”

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Spotlight: Zoids – The Helcat

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Welcome back to the deserts of Zi, readers! Now you know that I have returned in truth, for only the Mithril Guardian could afflict her long-suffering followers with another post about an obscure mecha anime. Rejoice, for you are not following a hacked blog..!

Okay, enough with the hyperbolic preamble. I have seen a lot more Zoids posts here at WordPress, which tells me that the franchise has returned to public knowledge. So, although I am not a fan, it appears thanks are owed by this blogger to the writers who came up with the latest Zoids series. Kudos, Zoids: Wild. You brought interest back to our favorite planet in the far reaches of the Milky Way. The story is not what this author would consider entertaining, but at least it succeeded in renewing curiosity about the larger world of this mecha anime. I can be happy about that. 🙂

Today’s zoid is from the Guylos Empire. Known as the Helcat, this panther-style mechanical combat unit is “the ultimate stealth zoid.” The cockpit, naturally, is situated in the zoid’s head. The green band that wraps around its “face,” where its mouth should be, is the visible part of the canopy. Once inside, the electrical imaging device in the cockpit will activate, giving the pilot a green tinged one-hundred-eighty degree view of the field.

A typical Helcat’s armaments belie its deadly potential. Normally, the Helcat’s only weapons are a small, double-barreled cannon on its back and a mini gun of some kind between its forelegs. There are is another, lighter type of gun attached to each of its shoulders and hips occasionally, but too many more weapons would weigh the zoid down and increase its noise output. With light armor, weapons, and speed, the Helcat is a combat unit that can fire quickly before ducking back into the shadows to escape larger zoids.

The zoid has other assets, though, and they are like no other. Equipped with a cloaking device known as an optical stealth unit, the Helcat can easily blend in with its surroundings. The zoid can also erase most of its own footprints and reduce its heat signature significantly. It also has muffled joints which make it hard to track by sound.

Combined with its cloak of invisibility, these devices make the Helcat almost undetectable. The muzzle flashes from its cannon do not give away its position reliably, since the pilot can move across the battlefield with relative impunity due to being largely invisible to the naked eye. And since Hel Cats are always deployed in groups, there are often several muzzle flashes appearing across the combat zone. Choosing one and hitting it is nearly impossible for an opposing pilot, even when he chances to spot the Cat’s outline against the background scenery.

This is one zoid that can give the best of pilots a hard time. Unless the Helcat’s cloaking device shorts out, or the opposing pilot sees the zoid’s outline against the terrain and keeps it in sight long enough to attack, it is impossible to track and hit this mechanical panther. If the Empire or a particular pilot enjoys the elements of surprise and bewilderment, this is the zoid for them.

Of course, the Helcats do have their vulnerabilities. Aside from the potential malfunctions with the optical stealth unit, a pilot in Zoids: Chaotic Century developed a handy technique to deal with the Cat. By using a computer to track the acoustic signals – i.e. the sounds Helcats cannot help but make, even with their muffled joints – he was able to pinpoint the position of every Cat on the field.

Helcat | Zoids Wiki | Fandom powered by Wikia

Also, the Cat’s speed and agility do not protect it from larger, faster zoids’ head on charges or higher caliber weapons. The Helcat is designed to bewilder and surprise an enemy, not beat it in a competition of speed and skill. There is a reason they are often deployed in large numbers, after all; a battalion of cloaked Helcats stands a much better chance of taking down opponent(s) than a single or small group does. Unless their target is totally unprepared, has no military training, or a zoid with even lighter armor, the Helcat will not stand a chance against him in a direct confrontation.

Still, despite these restrictions, the Helcat is an extremely versatile zoid. For a pilot who fights by relying on deception by fooling his target’s eyes, this Imperial mechanical combat unit is his best choice, bar none. Though eclipsed by the Shadow Fox in New Century Zero and rendered unimpressive by the technology in Zoids: Fuzors, in Chaotic Century no other stealth unit on Zi can compete with the Helcat.

That’s not to say that the Helcat is indefatigable. While Chaotic Century gave the zoid one of its best showings, it didn’t provide viewers with a demonstration of what the Helcat could really do. Most Helcats arrived on the scene only to be dispatched relatively quickly, which is a shame. I would like to see what a Helcat was truly capable of in the right hands.

Zoids: Chaotic Century Episode 51 | Zoids Wiki | Fandom ...

Teevrol and his pilot, Niccolo

Usually, the Helcat is painted red and black, the preferred colors of the Imperial Army. There have been other color choices, however. One Helcat in Chaotic Century was a white/grey/powder blue named Teevrol, who could move about on his own, though he was too attached to his young pilot to leave him. In Zoids: Fuzors, a black Helcat appeared, but it was defeated quickly in both episodes where it showed up.

All in all, the Helcat is not a zoid to shun. With its optical stealth unit, muffled joints, and ease at avoiding detection, it really is the cream of the stealth zoid crop. And while it never got to show its true colors on screen, it is still a mechanical combat unit I would sincerely like to pilot.

Besides, who can say no to such a cool Cat? 😀

See you on the battlefield, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

ZOIDS 023 Hellcat (japan import): Amazon.co.uk: Toys & Games

Spotlight: Thundercats – Tygra

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Last year, two posts about a pair of Thundercats characters appeared here at Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. The first one focused on Panthro, the second on Cheetara. A commentor on the second Spotlight! post requested that his favorite Thundercat be discussed next, and this blogger promised to write about that character in the New Year.

Well, while it is a day late and a dollar short, I hope JorgePr finds this post to be a satisfying review of his favorite character. Today’s Spotlight! focuses on the intellectual member of the Thundercats, Tygra. The team’s architect, scientist, inventor, academic, and moral authority, Tygra often came off as bland or uninteresting to most viewers. While this is an understandable reaction early on, to maintain it is to miss the very important contributions this Cat made to the team and the series.

Although his role in combat was not often as spectacular as Cheetara, Panthro, or Lion-O’s were, Tygra was a capable fighter. Using his bolo whip, intelligence, and native strength, he could think circles around most of his opponents with ease. The fact that his whip granted him invisibility only added to his combat capabilities, as it allowed him to sneak up behind or otherwise catch enemies by surprise. From what we saw in the television series, the only problem with this power came when Tygra had to swim. Water – whether it had been specially treated or not – rendered him visible to the naked eye. So in that sense, water was his weakness, a fact we will come back to later.

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Cat’s Lair, as designed by Tygra in the original series.

Due to his architectual expertise, Tygra was the Cat the rest of the team turned to when they needed something built. The designer of Cat’s Lair, the Feliner, and the Tower of Omens, his skill with artistic construction extended to more mundane items and sciences as well. When the Cats were shrunken to the size of insects, Tygra was the one who formulated the antidote. He was also the designer of the recording devices the group later employed to video themselves and their world for posterity. So while he wasn’t as mechanically inclined as Panthro, no one could say he wasn’t a good machinist, either.

Tygra also acted as the arbiter, recorder, and voice of final authority among the adult Thundercats. This was a position he achieved based on the virtues built into his character from the beginning. Clearly designed to resemble the tiger, where Panthro and Cheetara’s personalities were influenced by their physical attributes (strength and speed) his qualities had a different inspiration: the virtue of integrity.

Out of all the Cats, Tygra was probably the one with the strongest attachment to the Code of Thundera. While the others kept it in mind and allowed it to influence their daily lives and decisions, Tygra practically exuded a balanced spirit infused with Justice, Truth, Honor, and Loyalty. More than once, he cited or leaned on the Code to remind the rest of the group of their duties to the denizens of Third Earth or to emphasize the vital need for them to remember, honor, and adhere to their culture and beliefs.

Loyalty was probably his most obvious trait. Though he wasn’t afraid to call Lion-O or any of others to the carpet when they were drifting off course, he always did so in a way that was respectful and/or deferential. He was, after all, not rebelling against his Lord or his friends but trying to make sure they corrected their course before it was too late. Despite his vulnerability to mind-control, in the end Tygra’s devotion to the Code and his friends always won out over the evil influences.

Thundercatslair.org

This brings us back to Tygra’s powers and limits. Besides his bolo whip, Tygra possessed a hereditary trait called “mind power.” This ability played a clear role in only one episode, where Lion-O had to undergo a series of challenges to earn the title of Lord of the Thundercats. However, small hints dropped throughout the series suggest that this psychic talent was one he used in minor ways on an almost daily basis.

From a noble House renowned for its talent with “mind power,” Tygra often had to rest and prepare for days before using his psychic abilities for anything major, such as the trial where he tested Lion-O by casting various mental illusions. Unlike Cheetara, Tygra was well trained in the use of his gift. He therefore could not receive psychic images, warnings, etc. the way that she could. This may have made him susceptible to subtle psychic manipulation since, on three separate occasions.

Each time Tygra was lured into betraying the Thundercats and/or himself. In two of these cases, though, he managed to overcome the perpetrator’s influence and return to normal. Due to his heritage and calm, controlled demeanor, it only makes sense that he was taught from a young age how to defend against telepathic intrusion at the same time he learned how to use his power to protect himself. This implies that he learned to specifically guard against or block explicit telepathic messages or attacks, making it harder for him to realize when he was being presented with a less forceful psychic lure.

I say this last because, in an entirely different event, he showed he could recognize and fight overt psychic attacks. When Mumm-Ra used special bracelets to put the Cats under his mental command, Tygra was the last Cat standing, having ordered Snarf away to find and warn Lion-O. Eventually overpowered, Tygra was able to resist the bracelet and Mumm-Ra’s influence for a short period of time, something neither the Thunderkittens nor Cheetara had been able to do when they were “captured.”

To this blogger, that implies that his psychic talent made spontaneous use or abuse of it difficult in the extreme. Where Cheetara’s sixth sense could not be trained or used regularly, Tygra’s ability could, allowing him to block explicit or open telepathic messages without really thinking about it. It is also possible that while he needed to rest up and conserve energy to use his “mind power” for big events, using it for minor tricks in combat took little to no effort. In the first episode of the series, Tygra appeared to vanish – without using his brand new bolo whip to do so. It appears, therefore, that he could and would occasionally use his power to make others believe he had disappeared without resorting to his main weapon during skirmishes.

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Clearly, although he is not my favorite Thundercat, I have an immense respect for Tygra. Or at least, I respect his original depiction in the 1980s cartoon. I am also happy that the comic book writers married him off to Cheetara in their book series. The 2011 reboot’s giving us a good picture of their relationship and his origin story were well done additions to his character as well. (Except for the implication that he was the last tiger on Third Earth. Come on, people!)

As for the rest of the reboot’s presentation of Tygra, there were some glaring problems – starting with the small fact that they made him seasick. The original series never made it perfectly obvious, but it didn’t take a genius to come up with the theory that water was Tygra’s Achilles’ heel because it made him visible. Reducing this vulnerability to a queasy stomach was one of the ways they chipped away at his character in the reboot.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. While his status as Lion-O’s adopted brother was good, along with his more confident air, the resulting rivalry between them – especially where it concerned Cheetara – was absolutely unnecessary. It only got worse from there, as the writers used Tygra to make silly jokes that did nothing to make the stories they told any better than they already were. In fact, the debased treatment of this great Cat was a demerit for the final half of the 2011 reboot, in this blogger’s opinion. They wasted both the story lines they had set in motion and, worse, the rich estate they had received from the original Thundercats series.

In an effort to make him more interesting, the writers tore his most powerful characteristic – integrity – from him. They didn’t respect his honesty or his loyalty, though they tried to show the latter on occasion. Most of this was due to the fact that the reboot never referenced the Code of Thundera at all. It reduced the fantastic, chivalrous society which held its nobles and itself to a high set of standards and made it like the writers’ conception of the modern world, only with fantasy trappings.

This isn’t to bad mouth the good things they did do in Thundercats 2011. While I have my issues with the series, it did have its moments. And since it gave Tygra some great/good scenes while adding to his story, the writers deserve credit for doing their best. I only wish they had done better – especially where Tygra was concerned.

Hopefully, a future series (and no, I am not counting “Soycats” as a new Thundercats series), will treat the franchise and Tygra better. Only time will tell. Until then, I highly recommend watching the original series. The first half of the 2011 reboot is also watchable – though if you do it with a fan of the original series, be ready to hear some complaining. While this blogger dislikes the latter series, it does have some good material in it. You just have to have the patience to find it.

Until next time, readers, I leave you with a hearty, “ThunderThunder

Thundercats – HO!

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Spotlight: Transformers – Red Alert

Red Alert • Transformers Armada • Absolute Anime

Be still my beating heart. A secret mission with Hot Shot? Oh, I feel dizzy!

Thus spake the Autobot medic Red Alert in Transformers: Cybertron, a Japanese spinoff based on the original 1980s TV series. Cybertron is, perhaps, my favorite Transformers series to date. It has a good plot, great characters, and it ends on a high note – something the two Japanese TF series previous to it didn’t have, for some reason. It was in one of those earlier shows, Transformers: Armada, that I first encountered Red Alert.

Until a few years ago, I didn’t realize that Red Alert was an original character. He appeared several times in the 1980s television series as a security ‘bot with only one episode dedicated to him. In that installment, Red Alert somehow ended up with some wires crossed, making him ten times more paranoid and erratic than he usually was. Only Inferno’s constant efforts to help his best friend calm down brought the rampaging Autobot to his senses. Also, for some bizarre reason, the 1980s or “Generation 1” Red Alert turns into a Lamborghini, complete with police lights and sirens.

Red Alert (G1) - Teletraan I: the Transformers Wiki - Age ...

Transformers: Generation 1’s version of Red Alert.

No, I don’t really understand that, either. And since I saw so little of him there, the original Red Alert is not the topic of today’s Spotlight! post. Beyond what has been stated above, this blogger knows next to nothing about him and so cannot comment on him accurately.

The versions of Red Alert which she can speak about with some authority would be the Armada and Cybertron adaptations. In both of these English dubbed Japanese series, Red Alert turns into an ambulance. He acts as the Autobots’ medic in each storyline while doubling as the team scientist, techno-whiz, and mechanic in Armada. His position in Cybertron is roughly the same, though later on he becomes a commando hauling some heavy ballistics for the team, too.

During Armada, Red Alert was the direct opposite of Hot Shot. Where the younger Autobot was impulsive, cocky, and leapt before he looked, Red Alert was calm, collected, and hard to rattle. He tended to speak in a scientifically precise manner, which reminded me instantly of Spock from Star Trek. (I don’t know why so many characters who had stoic demeanors or pointed ears automatically made this writer think of Spock in her youth. I admired him, sure, but I didn’t think I liked him that much!)

Red Alert (Armada) - Teletraan I: the Transformers Wiki ...

Red Alert in Transformers: Armada.

More often than not, this version of Red Alert had to haul Hot Shot out of some form of trouble that the younger ‘bot had landed in of his own accord. In Armada, Red Alert’s penchant for thinking things through and acting only after forming a plan would get on Hot Shot’s nerves. They did not get along too well in the early installments of the series but eventually came to an understanding, after which this rivalry disappeared.

By now it’s been so long since Armada aired that this blogger has forgotten most of what Red Alert did in that series. My overall impression of him was one of reliability and steadiness. He may not have been prone to emotional exuberance, as Hot Shot was, but he was no less memorable for that.

That’s why I was very disappointed when he didn’t show up in Armada’s sequel series, Energon. Made in Japan as a direct continuation of the story in Armada, it had an English dub for the American market as well. Hot Shot got to appear regularly in Energon, but Red Alert was nowhere to be seen. Along with the many other problems that series had, this annoyed yours truly a great deal.

Cybertron, thankfully, made up for Red’s disappearance. Although this version of the character was grumpier and more expressive than his Armada counterpart, it was nice to have him back. Oddly enough, it was the British accent he had in this series which threw yours truly for a real loop at first! XD

Red Alert’s general deportment in this series also made him more relatable and fun than his depiction in Armada. Partnered with Hot Shot once again here, Red Alert continued in his role as handler for the more impetuous ‘bot. I’m not sure, but I think they were roughly the same age in this series, which was not the case in their previous appearances.

Transformers Cybertron: Red Alert

Red Alert freaking out in Transformers: Cybertron.

This allowed for plenty of character development for both Autobots. As Hot Shot matured and became more of a leader, Red Alert had the time to relax. Originally a stickler for the rules who could not abide his friend’s tendency to think with his spark rather than his head, Red came across as a bit of a control freak. He acted a lot like an older brother trying desperately to manage his younger brother in the same manner that their dad did. This meant that his hotheaded compatriot loved to needle him, too. 😀

As Hot Shot’s impetuous nature was curbed by experience and responsibility, Red Alert found he had less reason to maintain this uptight attitude. He even came to admire his “younger brother” after they and another Autobot named Scattershot sustained mortal wounds in combat with Megatron. Along with encouragement from the ‘bots human friends, Hot Shot’s determination to survive and overcome his injuries inspired Red Alert and Scattershot to do the same.

Choosing powerful military vehicles as their new alternate or vehicle modes also gave Red Alert a confidence boost. The upgrade in vehicle form came with an enormous, shoulder-mounted cannon that could pack a real punch. Buoyed by his new strength and power, Red’s bedside manner improved exponentially, along with his combat capabilities. His attitude in a fight was also more gung-ho than it had been prior to this change.

Though Red Alert was never my favorite Autobot, I did respect and enjoy his character. In both Armada and Cybertron he made the show feel more down-to-earth and realistic – or at least as realistic as any sci-fi show about giant, living robots can be. If the current writers at Hasbro took some pointers for his characterization from these two Japanese series, then he would be a worthy addition to future Autobot rosters.

It’s not likely, I know; that’s why I said “if.” That is also why I recommend watching Transformers: Cybertron or the original Transformers series if you are interested in “meeting” Red Alert. Armada starts out fine but ends on a depressing/weird note, so I do not enjoy dwelling on it. Or suggesting that it be viewed, even for what can be learned from it.

Well, readers, it is time for me to rev up and roll out. The next Spotlight! post you will see is one that I promised to tackle last year. It should purr-fectly interesting to more than a few of you.

Yes, that was a veiled hint. You know me too well, readers! 😉 ‘Til next time:

“Autobots, roll out!”

Transformers Cybertron Red Alert - YouTube